Attack of the Imoutos – BlazBlue: Alter Memory

blazblue-altermemory

Fighting game anime do not have the best reputation. While we’re not at the absolute depths of the 90s and such wonderful stinkers as Tekken and Battle Arena Toshinden, most of the time the individual stories you experience by playing each character one at a time in fighting games are all mashed together into a paste. The result is that characters do not even have enough screen time to properly showcase their already flimsy narratives, and what carries a fighting game anime to any kind of success is enough flair for the characters’ personalities to shine through in their limited actions.

BlazBlue: Alter Memory is not the worst anime in this respect. Based on the popular BlazBlue fighting game series, the fighters themselves are designed to be as bombastic as possible, and while the story is convoluted to no end it seems very intentional. The narrative and presentation of BlazBlue: Alter Memory revels in its anime aesthetic to the point that it ironically suffers from not being as beautiful in the animation department as its source material because they can’t be as meticulous compared with the intricate sprite animations used in the games. I have to admit that I’ve barely played the games, but from what I can read the anime successfully captures the fact that the story involves alternate timelines, powers that are ridiculously vague in their function, and a seemingly endless stream of little sisters.

blazblue-imoutos

Ragna the Bloodedge is our white-haired, Sugita Tomokazu-voiced protagonist with a beefy sword. His little sister Saya was killed in the past, and he swears revenge against the man who did it. However, he keeps coming across girls that appear similar or even identical to Saya. There’s military police officer Noel Vermillion, who is arguably the series’ secondary heroine. There are robots that come possibly from the future (or something?) who have her face. Even one of the main villains turns out to have connections to Ragna’s little sister. I had a passing idea of the narrative of BlazBlue before watching, that time travel was involved, and that it is basically the Guilty Gear series with the anime dial cranked up to 13, but I didn’t realize that the story is basically Super Kyon (from Suzumiya Haruhi) and his deluge of imoutos.

When people use the term “anime fighter,” they’re referring to games like BlazBlue, and while it’s often associated with certain game mechanics such as air dashing and elaborate combos, the aesthetic is also important. BlazBlue, and by extension Alter Memory, takes all of the popular little trends in hardcore anime of the past seven years or so and throws them together to make something gloriously confusing. You have Catgirls and actual cats. There’s a 12-year-old looking vampire girl who’s a fan favorite. Yandere are seemingly everywhere. Angst and ninjas and flourishes of power are presented in such obtuse yet highly cinematic ways that Bleach creator Kubo Tite would blush. The sheer importance of little sisters in BlazBlue is not surprising, then, given just how increasingly prominent they have been in anime, manga, and light novels.

I think if there’s any major flaw of BlazBlue: Alter Memory, it’s from the fact that it’s an anime in the first place. This doesn’t seem like the kind of story you’re meant to experience by just watching. Rather, I think it’s supposed to kind of wash over you as you back in the aesthetic environment of the world and its dynamic characters. Maybe I should play the games more.

You can watch BlazBlue: Alter Memory on Hulu.

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Why the Little Sister is an “Osaka Mama” is a Little Sister

Boku no Imouto wa “Osaka Okan”, or, My Little Sister is an “Osaka Mama” is an odd anime. Ostensibly about a younger sister who grew up in Osaka having to move back to Tokyo, this (sparsely animated) show is actually a way of showing various cultural differences between the two cities. It’s a funny little series, with the ever-changing ending theme based on the events of each episode being a highlight, but what I find especially funny about this anime is its origins.

Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan actually comes from a series of books designed to educate people about Osaka customs. The first book, Osaka Rules (as in “to live by,” not as in “Hulkamania”), is itself part of the Rules series for various parts of Japan. It was followed by Osaka Okan, which was designed to help people marrying into Osakan families to understand and deal with their in-laws better. What this means, then, is that the “little sister” component was added specifically for the anime, as if to try and capitalize on current otaku trends. I certainly can’t think of any other reason.

There’s something unbelievably shameless and perhaps even tongue-in-cheek about this that I can’t help but clap in admiration rather than hang my head in shame. Sure, little sister-focused stories are a dime a dozen in light novels, but what if the scope was widened in the way that Boku no Imouto wa “Osaka Okan” has shown us?

My Little Sister is a Forbes 100 CEO

My Little Sister is Doing a PhD on Molecular Biology

I Discovered My Little Sister is an Excellent Game Show Host

I Can’t Believe My Little Sister is the Catalyst for a Proletariat Uprising

The possibilities, as they say, are endless. I’m also aware that this sort of parody joke exists already, but I think the key difference is that the little sister component should appear deliberately grafted on, rather than being the axis upon which an anime revolves.


By the way, this show is from the gdgd Fairies people so you know it’s good.

“Hey, Your Sister’s Pretty Cute,” He Said

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, literally “My Little Sister Can’t Possibly Be This Cute,” is a Fall 2010 anime based on a light novel by the same name. Known as Oreimo for short, the series follows an “average” high schooler, Kyousuke, and his hardcore otaku of a younger sister, Kirino. Though only two episodes are out as of this writing, the show quickly explains the unwieldy title of the show by pointing out that “This Cute” basically means “like the loyal and affectionate little sister character you’d find in a moe anime or a visual novel.”

However, while the series emphasizes how Kirino is not “This Cute,” Kirino is shown to be so objectively good-looking that she works as a clothing model. Kyousuke expressing how he cannot see Kirino and her disrespectful, overachieving attitude as anything resembling adorability is akin to a man going into a crowd and loudly proclaiming his absolute hatred for chocolate. Even if he were telling the truth, an outburst like that would still make everyone think of chocolate.

The degree to which Kyousuke and the show itself remind the viewer that he is as far from a sister complex as possible reminds me of a certain situation in fanfiction, where an author notorious for creating Mary Sues, impossibly perfect characters often used as wish-fulfillment for the writer, tries to prove that they are capable of doing otherwise by creating extremely flawed characters. Ultimately though, these “Reverse Mary Sues” are just that: the tails to the Mary Sue’s heads, equally as “special” in terms of how much attention is given to them, even if it’s just about how imperfect they are.

Does that describe Kirino? Well, the easy assumption would be that Kirino exists on one side of the coin while the standard “moe little sister” resides on the other, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. Kirino is not simply the opposite extreme, but more of a moe little sister character who also incorporates elements from the more established little sister archetype of smart-alec brat seen in American shows such as Boy Meets World and Full House and perhaps best exemplified in anime by Pop, the younger sister of the titular Ojamajo Doremi. Kirino, who nonchalantly disrespects her older brother, complains about a lack of privacy, and also expresses vocal disgust at the idea of a sibling romance, has those bratty qualities juxtaposed with the amount of time and effort the show devotes to putting Kirino’s cuteness on display.

By establishing Kirino as being not-cute-but-actually-really-cute, as well as giving her qualities closer to a more antagonistic and thus arguably more “realistic” younger sister, it begs the question of whether or not Oreimo is trying to diversify the concept of the moe “little sister” by incorporating those bratty elements, perhaps in response to any possible growing weariness with established and rigid moe tropes. In other words, could Oreimo be an attempt at reconfiguring moe from within, and if so, is that a sign of the times? Assuming these to be true, it would not be Kirino herself who equates to the Anti-Sue, but rather the genesis of Kirino as a new type of little sister bearing similarities to the initial motivation by which the Anti-Sue is formed, though handled with more skill and professionalism than your stereotypical fanfiction.

Further complicating the whole matter is the fact that Kirino herself is an otaku fanatically devoted to the “little sister” type who, instead of envisioning herself as the little sister yearning for the affections of her older brother, sees herself in the role of that fictional older brother. Moreover, Kirino is actually embarrassed about her hobby and is a closet otaku. When these aspects of Kirino are taken into account alongside Kyousuke and the degree to which he expresses his disinterest in little sisters both “real” and “fictional,” Kirino’s existence as an “attractive girl” actually takes priority over her existence as a “little sister” in certain respects. In particular, by making her the “otaku” and making Kyousuke the “normal one,” the (male) otaku watching may find themselves relating more closely to Kirino than her older brother, despite gender differences. That’s not to say that she is the viewer surrogate, of course, as Kirino is still very much designed to be the object of desire for the audience.

Essentially, Kirino’s charm starts to become that of a cute girl who is also someone’s younger sister, something is much more applicable to the real world than the typical visual novel archetype, seeing as how many females out there are younger sisters to someone. At the same time however, the trappings of Oreimo, namely the frequent and prominent use of the term “little sister,” also bring that fandom/fetish to the forefront of the viewer’s consciousness. Oreimo thus occupies a sort of contradictory space, where it appears to both reinforce and subvert little sister moe by being a variation on the established formula which also goes about reminding the viewer of that original formula. In doing so, the series then casts into question, perhaps unintentionally, the nature of the “little sister” character itself, as well as whether or not someone can enjoy a character who falls into a moe archetype without being specifically catered to by that archetype’s inherent qualities. Given such a contradiction, I have to wonder, is the overt “little sister” aspect of Oreimo a boon or a detriment? Or to put it another way, would Oreimo be better off if it weren’t about a little sister at all?

That all said, it’s only been two episodes. I’ll have to ask again at a later date.

The Deception of Hirasawa Ui

This is Hirasawa Ui. She is the younger sister of the Light Music Club’s lead guitarist Hirasawa Yui. She is also a TRICK designed to pull in otaku and leave them with more than they anticipated!

Yes Ui is a little sister, and in that sense many fans may be drawn in by her “little sister” appeal. However, that imouto moe is only on the surface, and what lies underneath is a beast from yesteryear, ready to reclaim the throne of fandom, away from the tsundere, away from the “Onii-chan!” spouting imouto, away from the maids, away from the tsundere imouto maids.

Hirasawa Ui is actually a 1980s Childhood Friend Shounen Heroine in the guise of a little sister. She bears few similarites to Kyon’s sister from Haruhi or Cardcaptor Sakura, while her personality is closer to that of Yuria from Hokuto no Ken or Minami from Touch! Closer to her is Mikan from ToLoveRu but Mikan still leans closer to the imouto moe side. Capable, smart, responsible, and always in a position to help those close to her, Ui is the start of a secret plan to bring back the 80s Shounen Heroine, or at the very least the To Heart’s Akari-style childhood friend (as opposed to the To Heart 2 Konomi-style childhood friend).

“Oh!” you might say, “But she’s not the most popular character!” But that’s where they get you. Because she’s not in the main cast, because she’s not at the forefront of her show, she can slowly build up momentum. She is the first of many. She is avantgarde.

Now that you know the truth, you have two choices: embrace it or fight it. Just know that Hirasawa Ui will be there to serve you tea and make sure you’re comfortable.